Monthly Archives: March 2014

King Arthur and the round table of Winchester


Winchester (4)Winchester the ancient capital of Britain is keeping alive the legend of King Arthur and the round table. In the Great Hall of this ancient city there is an artifact of the round table hanging on the wall, inscribed with the names of Arthur’s 24 knights and depicts Henry VIII of England sitting above a Tudor rose. It is by no means the original table but it was done and installed in 1511 by order of Henry VIII.

Winchester (9)In the legend, Arthur was the son of the king of Britain; he Winchester (10)was raised by Merlin the magician and later, educated by older knights. After his coronation Arthur received a gift from Merlin, a round table in order to administer justice in Britain. In the capital, Camelot 24 of the best knights in the Kingdom gathered around the table and all were deemed to be of equal standing. To this day it has not been established where Camelot actually existed, it could have been in Winchester, Colchester or Camel ford in Cornwall. Winchester still keeps the ancient tradition going, when 24 assessors meet at the roundtable thus preserving a historical continuity.

Winchester (8)Near the Great Hall there are the ruins of an ancient castle, Winchester (7)built in 1067 after the Norman Conquest. A totally unique garden named Queen Eleanor laid out in the style of a medieval landscape is situated behind the Great Hall, I have not seen such a small and pretty garden anywhere else on my travels.

In the 9th century AD Alfred the Great defeated the Vikings and proclaimed Winchester as the capital of the kingdom of Wessex. Later King Canute the Great of Denmark made the city the capital of England, which remained so, until the 17th century, when London became the more prosperous town. Many historic and medieval buildings have been preserved in Winchester. The combination of different architectural styles gives the city a unique appearance, like the City Hall, built in 1871 in a Gothic style, also one of the oldest houses built on a timber framed carcass, there is the ancient market place “Butter cross” from which all roads radiate, built in the 15th century and the old bridge over the River Itchen.

Building of the Cathedral in the 9th century is on the site of an Old Saxon church. In 1393 it was rebuilt in a Gothic style and today is one of the oldest and the longest Gothic Cathedrals (169m) in the world with frescoed walls and stained glass paintings. In the Hall houses there are many other ancient relics to be seen.

Winchester (15)The main monument in the city is the statue of Alfred the Great, King Arthur and the round table of Winchesterwho not only laid the foundation for the unification of England, but also made a lot of reformations in the country, like the creation of the first compendium of national laws “True King Alfred.” The legends of King Arthur’s knights about an honest and fair justice, is still alive today in the British justice system. However, if King Arthur of the legend supposedly during the 6th century which is preserved in chronicles, manuscripts, monasteries and literary works, did ever exist, no official confirmation has ever been made by any historian.

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Castle Combe, one of the prettiest villages in England


Castle Combe (11)When we arrived in the small village of Castle Combe in Wiltshire, it felt like a time machine had transferred us to the middle ages. There are no modern buildings to be seen anywhere or any modern architecture. That is why the village is in a list of the prettiest villages in England. The cottages were built in the 14th century from a Cotswold yellow stone mined in this area and have been preserved for future generations to visit and admire. There are only 350 inhabitants, one small gift shop for tourists, two old pubs and a large 14th century Manor house in the valley, whose history is linked with several English family dynasties.

Castle Combe (31)The classic history of the English village of Castle Combe has Castle Combe (5)been known since ancient Celtic settlements. After the conquest of Britain by the Romans a fortress was built in the valley. In the year 600 AD the Normans settled here and built a new fortress. Similar stories can be told about hundreds of other settlements in Britain. The name Castle Combe means “castle in the valley” from the Saxon language (“cumbe” meaning valley). The Castle was destroyed by invaders from Denmark in 878. The land with some ruins of the Norman castle is now owned by a golf club.

Castle Combe (1)In the Middle Ages the settlement Castle Combe was an Castle Combe (4)important center of wool industry. From the central square with the Market Cross and water pump established in those days, streets lead down to the river Brook along the picturesque cottages where the spinsters and weavers once lived. The Church of St. Andrew from the 14th century is famous for the fact that the oldest medieval working clock in England can still be found here.


Castle Combe (25)This attractive village is often used by filmmakers as there Castle Combe (19)are no TV aerials or telegraph poles in the area; several well-known British films such as “War Horse”, “Doctor Doolittle” and “Wolf Man” among others were filmed here.

While the Barony of Combe existed for 850 years, the dynastic family “Scrope” of Norman origins owned the estate for nearly 500 years. George Thompson married Emma Scrope, the daughter of painter the William Scrope and heiress to the estate of Castle Combe who then took her last name. Now as George Scrope he is best known as the author of a book about the Castle Combe estate, as well as being an outstanding geologist, he has issued articles describing the activities of volcanoes. Subsequently, he sold the estate as he was the sole heir.

Castle Combe (6)

The Manor house which was built in the 14th century to Castle Combe (23)replace the Norman Castle is now a five-star hotel called the “Manor House Hotel“. In small cozy rooms with antique fireplaces and beautifully carved paneling in the hall you can enjoy great hospitality, a very friendly staff and even have afternoon tea in an atmosphere of bygone days. Also you can stroll in a magnificent park from the 18th century created in an Italian, Classical and Gothic style with fantastic views of the valley.

The surrounding area of this charming village with green woods and meadows on the hills create very enchanting scenery. It is a unique nature reserve and a beautiful wildlife sanctuary.

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The Cookham floods


Cookham (2)Cookham is a pretty little village in the Thames Valley that was a royal manor in 965 when owned by King Edgar, whose residence was located in Old Windsor, prior to Windsor Castle being built. Today the village has a special English character with many medieval houses scattered among some wonderful large properties.

In the valley of the Thames there are many conservation areas and lots of paths ideal for hiking especially around this area where the river is very close to the village.

This winter of 2013/14, due to the continuous rain for three weeks or more, the village was flooded for over two months. This brought a lot of flood tourists with cameras to the village, including myself.

Although I enjoyed taking photographs, I could not help but feel sorry for the people who were affected by this natural disaster.

I am sharing my photos on here not only because of the beautiful landscapes that have been created by the water but for the picturesque streets with their unique cottages.

NB. Cookham has been ranked as the second most expensive village in Britain by The Telegraph, where the average value of property exceeds the million pound mark.

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Maidenhead, the snobby town once known for its showy hotels


Maidenhead  (17)I continue my stories about settlements in the Thames valley. My last story was about Monkey Island. This time I write about Maidenhead, a wondrous and sweet town for me, because I not only describe my experiences and impressions but I am partly influenced by other opinions, like from the novelist Jerome K. Jerome, who describes his journey and the towns along the Thames valley in his novel “Three Men in a boat”.

MaidenheadHere is part of his writing. “Maidenhead itself is too snobby Maidenheadto be pleasant. It is the haunt of the river swell and overdressed female companion. It is a town of showy hotels, patronized chiefly by dudes and ballet girls”.

The author described the town as it was over one hundred years ago. During Victorian times, thousands of people flocked to the river to watch the wealthier classes disport themselves, especially on weekends, when they held carnivals and regattas. The town has been linked with scandals from playboy visitors who used to go to the hotels on the river.


Maidenhead  (21)Maidenhead is not a very old town. In the 9th century the Maidenhead  (14)settlement was known as South Ellington, which eventually merged with Maiden-Hythe or “New Wharf”. There are other theories about the origins of the name. One speculation is about a holy virgin. By legend, in a chapel on the river Thames there was a maiden’s scull, one of St. Ursula’s eleven thousand virginal maidens, who were martyred at Cologne. Although historians say that St. Ursula never existed. The name “Maiden” originates from the Saxon language “Maegdena”, hence the Maiden’s head.

Maidenhead became the busiest coaching stop on the road between London and Bristol, when in 1777 a new bridge was built across the Thames to replace an old wooden one built in 1280. The town was within a day’s journey from London and travelers took to spending the night at the inns, particularly if they knew they could be attacked by robbers during darkness.

Maidenhead  (12)Nowadays Maidenhead is a very pleasant place, especially along the river, where in 1772 the Boulters lock was built. (The word “bolter” means miller in old English) Ray Mill Island which is situated beside the lock once belonged to the Ray family and is where the actual Mill was once situated. In 1950, the mill was named Boulters Inn and became a beautiful small hotel on the river, linked to Ray Island by a very picturesque but very old wooden bridge, which I photographed five years ago! Unfortunately, this bridge was destroyed after the renovation of the restaurant in 2010.


Maidenhead pic (1)Today it is a modern restaurant overlooking the River with great views from the large magnificent balconies. Ray Island is now a very beautiful park overlooking the weir on the Thames with picture postcard views. Somehow by accident I found a very old photo of the painting “Boulters Lock at Maidenhead on Thames” by the artist R. Allan depicting a view of the island as it was many years ago.

My next photo essay will be about a village called Cookham, which suffered greatly this year by unprecedented floods.

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